San Diego is German for 2014 Baseball Winter Meetings. A Recap.

The 2014 Winter Meetings in San Diego was a spectacle enjoyed by all who attended. From Job Seekers, to trade show exhibitors, and former managers to GMs, big deals were struck constantly providing entertainment for all who attended. Being here live was a great experience, and I encourage all baseball fans to make the Hajj at some point in their lives. Before digging into which teams won and lost (and there were some big winners and losers), I’d like to highlight some of the characters of professional baseball.

Clint Hurdle could host a one man show. Upon entering the Grand Hyatt Hotel, the Pirates Manager was the first person everyone saw. Dressed in a boisterous purple shirt, he had a crowd of 20 people around him entrenched in his story telling and struck by his personality. There was some buzz that he was taking pulls from a Jim Beam bottle at the bar Monday night.

Jack McKeon, Jim Leyland, and Jerry Reinsdorf don’t give a Slim Jim about anything. McKeon and Jerry each had three or four cigars in their mouth/pockets/hands at all times, while Leyland chain-smoked cigarettes while looking upon the crowd in destain. These ol’ baseball boys have teams, swagger, personality (kinda), sweet old dude hair (except for Jerry, gross), own a few teams, and most importantly, have a few rings. People flocked to them as well. Also, Joe Maddon is totally loving this big market attention he’s getting.

Watching Ken Rosenthal, Brian Kenney, Tim Kurkjian, Buster Olney, and Karl Ravech scurry around chasing stories is so much fun. Not that I am the biggest guy in the world, but these little guys move, have all of the inside tracks (literally and figuratively), and crush it on camera with breaking news. Baseball is lucky to have such great journalists covering its game. Also, Dan Plesac is a madman and the official conductor of the Cubs Big Blue Train #CubbyChubby. And, Peter Gammons is and will always be the best.

Down to business:

The Chicago teams started strong, and the Dodgers finished The Meetings off. The White Sox starting rotation is loaded. Consider this: in July the Sox’ starting five in order could be: Sale, Samardzija, Quintana, Danks, Rodon (last years 3rd overall pick). All of those guys pitch a ton of innings, deep into games and keep their teams in it. With the addition of Duke, Robertson, and Jennings to the ‘pen, these guys could all exceed double digit wins (maybe not Danks as he is a career underachiever). With LaRoche protecting Abreu, expect MVP numbers again from Jose Dariel. I like the White Sox to contend in the Central, but with the Indians improving, the Tigers Tigering, the Royals scrappy, and the Twins with top prospects Buxton and Sano coming everyone in this division has a shot at the crown. The Sox pitching, however, is inspiringly exciting.

It’s go time on the Northside. In speaking with Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago, Jed and Theo supposedly arrived at their suite at the top of the Hyatt on Saturday afternoon, and didn’t leave until Wednesday morning- after signing Jon Lester to one of the largest contracts in pitching history. His 6 year $155 mm (7th year vesting option for $15mm) shows the commitment the Cubs are making to winning, and that the time to win is now and over the next seven years. Adding Miguel Montero is a smooth move and may attract additional arms (David Price next year). With one more bat (think Justin Upton) and one more arm (think Shields) the Cubs will have a winning season in 2015 and contend for a wild card spot. If Baez, Soler, Bryant, Russell can mature into 80% of their ceilings, the Cubs will be a wrecking crew for years to come.

Lastly, The Los Angeles Dodgers fielded a whole new ball club. Andrew Friedman must be having so much fun literally abusing the rest of the league (except for the Chicago teams, obviously) and playing with a checkbook that has unlimited checks in it, and money. The Marlins’ are certifiable idiots right now, and The Dodgers stole their candy, and then offered it to a friend for a full sack lunch. DEE GORDON DOES NOT CREATE RUNS. Owner Jeffery Loria said that he hopes Yelich and Dee become what Juan Pierre and Luis Castillo were for the 2003 World Series champs. chartYelich is fine, however, Dee Gordon is not even close to the production of those guys. Look at this chart comparing their wOBA.

Even early in the above replacement level careers of Pierre and Castillo, they greatly outperformed Dee and set the table for  the artist formerly known as Miggy Joven to reign terror on opponents, which turned the 2003 #CubbyChubby barely into Billy “Wagner”s. Dee Gordon’s .312 wOBA last season is below any season Louis Castillo had after his 24 birthday. Okay enough ranting on how the Marlins are going to be sold with a ton of debt on them and no wins, and back to how Friedman and Zaidi and former Padres’ GM Josh Byrnes dominated the latter portion of the Winter Meetings.

They set out to do two things, change the makeup of the team, and improve the defense. By adding veterans Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick, they accomplished both of those goals. Their defense is now greatly improved, and the team can regain and begin to rebuild its identity as a hard working, smart ball club as opposed to a group full of divas fighting for the LA smoglight. I would have been okay with them keeping Heaney, but they essentially traded a bag of baseballs (Dee Gordon – His Weighted Runs Created (wrc) where average is 100 was 101 last year and Steamer has him projected at 80 for next year which is below replacement level. enough) and Matt Kemp for Kendrick, Rollins, and Grandal. And they signed McCarthy. Pretty solid stuff Mr. Friedman.

Overall, both Central Divisions are going to be extremely competitive – but don’t be surprised if the Tigers and Cardinals still win each. Additionally, each LA team improved, the Padres are in the mix, the Red Sox have 25 back of the rotation starters, and who the hell knows what’s going on in Oakland. Should be a great 2015 Campaign.
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Lester the Molestar?

Relax. Molestar means “to bother” in Spanish. And, that has been what Jon Lester has been doing to several teams, and especially fans. Fans, who are just waiting for the bat to drop, and Lester to choose where he will bring his leadership and left arm. To update, the Cubs are leading the pack in terms of dollars with a 6 year, $138MM offer on the table. The Red Sox are at 6 years and “a willingness” to go to $130MM. Both of those landing spots obviously make sense for Lester. The Red Sox appear to be ready to go from last to first again, while Lester may have to endure at least one more season of mediocrity in Chicago.

The Giants must feel like they have to spend some cash after losing The Panda Express, so they could approach those numbers and have an attractive team, an attractive battery mate (who may only catch 50 games next year) and an attractive something else that may just make the Bay Area so damn desirable (I don’t get it, but everyone seems to want to move there).

Not likely the Braves are going to be able to get up to $130, so I think they’re out and just trying to swoon their home town hero back to A-town. Not gonna happen.

I predict he is back in Boston. $1.25mm per year probably is not enough for him to go to Chicago with more risk of not being competitive. It is entirely possible that Boston starts the season with both Cespedes and Lester on the roster. (What is Billy Beane doing?) (Like seriously, what is he doing right now?)

Keith Law doesn’t know either…